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Summit gathers 1,000 church leaders for learning, encouragement, and reminder of shared mission

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Springfield | Ministry in the Midwest has ups and downs, successes and struggles. The work of advancing the gospel in a diverse, large region requires creativity, perseverance, and a willingness to sacrifice personal preference.

With their common calling in mind, more than 1,000 leaders from 13 Midwest states gathered in Springfield Jan. 23-25 at the Midwest Leadership Summit, a meeting organized every three years by Southern Baptist state conventions in the region.

“We share the same love for our communities and vision to see people come to Christ,” said Tim Burgess, a pastor in Mt. Vernon, Mo., “and getting together is a great reminder that we are not working at this alone.”

The large-group sessions and more than 90 breakouts tackled specific ministries—college campuses, church planting, missions, women, youth, and Disaster Relief, to name a few. Underlying each session was the need to advance the gospel in a culture that’s moving farther away from biblical truth. In our culture of change, one thing has stayed the same, said Detroit’s Darryl Gaddy.

“You look around and notice that nothing stays the same,” said the urban church planting specialist in his keynote address to open the Summit. “Nothing is as it was ten, five, or even two years ago.

“But actually there is one thing that does stay the same. Sin. Oh, the consistency of brokenness. It never takes a vacation. But friends, we are the church. And we, like Peter who raised the lame man up in the name of Jesus Christ, are called to speak into the brokenness.”

Gaddy urged Midwest leaders to be “agents of change” in their communities, which will require obedience when it’s not convenient, becoming less so others can become more, and giving up their rights to someone else—Jesus.

“We have received information for our heads, inspiration for our hearts, and implementation for our hands,” Gaddy said. “Let’s not leave here the same way we came.”

God at work
Like the Midwest itself, leaders in Springfield for the Summit represented a wide variety of contexts, including places where new churches are making inroads into previously unreached communities. North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell facilitated a discussion with four planters who took to the main stage to talk about strategy, cooperation, and the power of prayer.

“There is a quote that I always go to when I think about our church,” said David Choi, pastor of Church of the Beloved in Chicago. “When men work, they work. But when men pray, God works. The great church planter is the Lord. Recruit prayer warriors to lift up your ministry because that’s truly the secret sauce.”

In a few years, Choi’s church has grown from one—himself—to encompass hundreds meeting for worship every weekend. He credited God for the growth, and the prayers of people who live far from his city but have made it a point to lift up Church of the Beloved.

Ezell also introduced Paul Sabino, pastor of Candeo Church on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Sabino is part of The Salt Network, a family of next-generation churches working together to plant churches in major university cities.

“We are seeing the power of God on us and it’s like holding a Dixie cup; it’s overflowing and we can’t contain it,” Sabino said. “Jesus said he would make us fishers of men. The fish are on college campuses and they are hungry. They are crying out for the living God to impact their lives.”

The focus on church planting was encouraging for Christine Watkins, who came to the Summit as a member of Jachin Baptist Church, a 10-month-old church plant in Flint, Mich. Her husband, Derrick, is pastor of the church named for a word found in 1 Kings 7:21. Jachin means “the Lord will establish,” Watkins said.

“I think attending this summit and hearing all the great knowledge and stories of how God has blessed young church plants is part of how God is opening doors and giving direction in how he is going to establish our church.”

‘Pray bigger prayers’
Jeff Iorg, President of Gateway Seminary in Ontario, Ca., understands what it means to advance the gospel in difficult environments.

“Much of what you are experiencing now in the Midwest we experienced 30 years ago in California,” he said during the Summit’s final session. “It seems like an impossible task with formidable obstacles…Yet, I’m here to tell you the gospel is advancing on the West Coast, and healthy churches are growing with denominational influence and cooperation.”

Iorg said the reason for the gospel’s advancement, especially in a hostile cultural environment, can be found in John 14.

“Jesus said in verse 12, ‘I assure you: The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.’

“‘And he will do even greater works than these’—that is quite a sober declaration of Scripture,” Iorg said. “Do you believe the word of God? Do you believe Jesus meant what he said?”

Iorg encouraged leaders to pray and ask God for what is worthy to be asked for in Jesus’ name and to surrender control to the Holy Spirit.

“Confess your powerlessness and ask the Holy Spirit for the filling, guiding, and directing,” he said. “So often, we start to rely on our own strategic plans. That’s not going to work. We must depend on the filling of the Holy Spirit to get the mission done.”

The last step to advancing the gospel in this cultural environment is to teach people to read, understand, and obey the Bible. Iorg said the only time he has seen people transformed is when they engage God’s Word.

“No games, no gimmicks,” Iorg said. “Pray bigger prayers in the name of Jesus. Work in the Holy Spirit’s power and trust him to do supernatural things in you. And find a way to teach people to internalize the Word of God. That’s it. Now let’s go home and do it.”

Kayla Rinker is a freelance writer living in Missouri.

Who’s at the table?

ib2newseditor —  August 18, 2016

Office chairLooking around the table at a leadership meeting, I noted who was there. More important, I realized who wasn’t.

This was the first meeting under the church’s new leadership structure. Most of the people had served in leadership capacities and most of them had served together at one time or another. But they had not all served together at the same time.

So we brought them together.

The need in this congregation was enhanced communication among ministry planners. The church’s various ministries had a history of bumping heads. There was confusion over use of rooms and recruiting workers. There was often a sense that no one really knew what was going on. And it was evident that the ministry teams held differing views on their own purposes, and different interpretations of the vision of the church.

Surely a regular meeting of the leaders would help to fix this. But it didn’t.

Not all the leaders were there. One man who said he hated meetings chose not to attend, so his cause had no voice in the allocation of dates and resources. Another team had three people in attendance, so the discussion felt tilted to their interests.

Sitting there, I made a few notes:

• Everyone here is a longtime member. Are there new people with fresh ideas we should bring to the table?

• Everyone is from the same generation. How can we bring other age groups to the discussion?

• Everyone is from an elected position, but not all ministries are represented. And a couple don’t need this level of input. Which are the right ministries to include so the vision is accomplished?

• Our discussion seems dominated by a few not-well-prepared people. How can we improve their preparation or dismiss them from the group?

• After this meeting, we still need buy-in from “unelected” leaders. How can we bring opinion leaders to the table?

Next time you’re at a leadership meeting, give some thought to who’s at the table.

 This article first appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of the Resource Magazine. Read it online at Resource.IBSA.org.

 – Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist

Learning how to learn

Lisa Misner —  January 7, 2016

LeadershipIf you have been in a leadership role for very long, you have experienced organizational insanity! It can be described as doing what you have always done, the way you have always done it and expecting different results. We chuckle when we hear that because we know how easily it can happen.

It would be nice if annually articulating a clear vision based on the Great Commission, creating a strategy based on the five functions of the church, and then providing training for our staffs and volunteers were all it took to be effective in ministry. Unfortunately, it is not. In addition to these important leadership activities, we must help the churches we lead become learning organizations to prevent drifting off mission.

A church that is a learning organization will stay responsive to its ministry environment. It will learn better ways to meet the needs of its community and create new on-ramps for the gospel.

We see the principle of being a learning organization in Acts 6:1-7. When the early church had success in reaching Greek people with gospel, the need for reorganization and new staffing to meet the growing ministry needs became evident. These believers learned what needed realignment by looking at the ineffectiveness of their food distribution system and were able to transform their ministry structure, resulting in greater disciple-making capacity.

We live in a time when there is a lot of talk about church revitalization and church planting. I am for both. Let me suggest that when churches need revitalization, often it is because they have quit learning. They no longer know how to make adjustments to their mission efforts because they are not learning from their field efforts. They might not even think that it is necessary to learn from their results in the field. I contend that after we have done our theological homework, the next source for vital organizational learning is the mission field we are trying to reach.

Here are three ways churches can stop the insanity and become learning organizations.

1. Establish a supportive learning environment. Create opportunities for staff or volunteers to express their thoughts about the work they are currently doing without fear of being belittled. Help people become aware of opposing ideas that are present. Help them move beyond fixing problems to creating novel solutions. I have found asking these four questions about how things are going is a helpful place to start:

  • What is right about our methods and results?
  • What is confusing about our methods and results?
  • What is missing from our methods and results?
  • What is wrong about our methods and results?

2. Create helpful learning processes and practices. In order for an organization to learn, helpful facts and information must be gathered, processed, interpreted, shared and acted on. Probably the best known example of this approach is the U.S. Army’s After Action Review. It is a systematic debriefing after every mission:

  • What did we set out to do?
  • What actually happened?
  • Why did it happen?
  • What will we do next time?

3. Model learning at the senior leadership level. Senior leaders who model learning:

  • Invite input from peers and subordinates in critical discussions.
  • Ask probing questions.
  • Listen attentively.
  • Encourage multiple viewpoints.
  • Provide time, resources and venues for reflecting and improving past performance and for identifying challenges.

Remember, you will lead the organization that you allow or the one that you create.

Bob Bumgarner is executive pastor at Chets Creek Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He will be the featured speaker at the Illinois Leadership Summit, January 26-27, 2016. Reprinted by permission from the Florida Baptist Witness.

 

Pat_Pajak_blog_calloutCOMMENTARY | Pat Pajak

You might actually be tearing down the very thing you’re trying to build if you’re guilty of these teamwork killers:

1. Practicing the age-old adage: My way or the highway
When trying to build teamwork, don’t forget that everyone has an opinion. Oftentimes, the thoughts, ideas and suggestions that arise through team discussions can be helpful. Listen to and learn from your team, involve them in decision making, ask for their input, and embrace the reality that teamwork can often be better than “my way or the highway!”

2. Being all about the numbers
Make no mistake about it, numbers do matter and the bottom line is important, but it’s not the final measurement. The very best teamwork (strategies, goals, planning and effort) doesn’t always produce the expected results. Numbers become a problem when a leader puts so much focus on them that he or she forgets about the importance of the team – the people who are making those numbers happen. People matter more than numbers, and forgetting that fact destroys teamwork.

3. Talking without listening
If no one else can get a word in or share an opinion, there is no teamwork. A leader destroys the opportunity to build future leaders if he or she is always talking and never listening. If people are never heard, they will soon cease to share things that matter.

4. Changing things just for the sake of changing things
Change is good and sometimes necessary. But it must be based on a specific outcome. Any leader who takes this to another level by changing things just to let you know they’re in charge doesn’t really understand teamwork. Operating as a team requires a leader to explain why change is necessary, move carefully through the process, and be willing to admit that what the team is saying sometimes makes perfect sense. Failure to survey the impact, timing and necessity of change destroys teamwork. Get everyone on board before any change takes place.

5. Micro-managingThe quickest way to destroy a team is to micro-manage every decision, action and assignment. Team members know the difference between being given a responsibility, and being handed a predetermined to-do list. Leaders who care more about things being done exactly their way destroy the notion of teamwork. Are you really interested in building a team? Remember the word of Dr. John Maxwell: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Pat Pajak leads IBSA’s church strengthening team.